Knock Out

2 Sep

I’ve been a little behind on research this past week.  It may have been a bit hard for you to carry on without me telling you what I think about various travel soap and the best destination to get a haircut in Switzerland.  For that, I apologize. 

Today I’m back and I’m committing to being back by sharing a little story about desktop wallpaper.  You see, I spend a good part of my work life in front of a computer (when I’m not at someone else’s computer).  So it’s helpful to me to have pictures up that inspire me.  Even if they only inspire me to not fall asleep.  Times are hard, people.  Sleeping on the job is no longer okay.  I had no idea that there would be days like this.  Sooner or later they are going to tell me that I can’t wear pajamas to work and then it’s going to get ten different shades of serious in my world.

Thankfully, that day has yet to come.  And I can still pick my desktop so I did.  I popped a picture of the Mister and Henry (otherwise known as LB for Little Buddy) onto one screen.  You can see it on the right side bar with all my other Flickr photos.  For the second photo I thought I should pick one of somewhere that we’ll be going.  When I thought of the beautiful places we’ll be in less than a year (hold me!), this is the clear beauty pageant winner.  Or scholarship contest, if that’s how we’re rolling.  The Cinque Terre.

What’s even better is I found today’s image at a site called Chaffeurs Italy.  Now I don’t want the Mister to read this and get excited that we’ll be met at the train station by a driver with a sign that reads “Karli and the Mister”.  Though that would be cute.  Anyone got buddies in Milan?  Never mind.  What I’m getting at here is that the Cinque Terre (or Five Lands) is a group of five cities near Genoa.  They all have their own personalities and specialities.  I’m gonna blog about them again soon but I thought that this picture would give you a taste of the good things to come.

It’s Hip to Be a Venetian Square

28 Aug

Napoleon called it “the most beautiful drawing room in all of Europe”.  Or at least plenty of people think he did.  I guess the jury’s out on that quote but I think we still get the point.  Piazza San Marco or, as us Yanks call it, St Mark’s Square is a looker.  It’s the buildings, the pavement and even the pigeon poo.  For centuries this square has been the religious, political and social center of Venice.  Beauty and brains and all that there.  It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

St Mark’s Square got it’s start with a dead saint.  In 828/9 San Marco was adopted as the patron saint of Venice.  Before him, St Theodore had that honor.  He sounds pretty cool as he is portrayed in a statue on the Piazza with a spear and a crocodile representing his feat of slaying a dragon.  And if you had a dragon, a patron saint that could mark him expired might be nice.  But St Mark got the job when his relics were taken from Constantinople and handed over to the Venetians.  Having relics in those days was a big deal, kind of like hosting the Olympics but even better because you typically get to build a church.  And that’s what the Venetians did.  Eventually.

Check it. These Clarks shoe models are so happy to be in Piazza San Marco. Apparently too happy to notice there isn't any shoe modeling going on. Dang!

When St Mark’s relics came to town they were originally stored in the Doge’s palace.  The Doge is the rule of Venice and so that seemed like a good place.  This Doge leaves a gift in his will of a church to be built in Venice to house the relics.  And that’s how we get St Mark’s Basillica.  Of course, the original one was mostly burned down in a rebellion in 976 and had to be rebuilt in 1063.  It’s still old and it still has relics, aka religious bling.

To reiterate just how important relics are view the mosaic above the door of San Marco.  It depicts some Venetians in Alexandria smuggling the relics out.  To hide them they thought it would be best to put them in pork.  You see, back then TSA was Muslim and they don’t dig on swine.  So they allowed the Venetians to leave Alexandria with the relics because they assumed that no one would be desperate enough to hide highly esteemed religious objects in dead pig.  Obviously they didn’t know who they were dealing with.  In fact, all of beautiful San Marco is covered in fabulous artwork liberated from other places.  And you know, pigeon poo.  But that’s all local, my friends.

By George, I Think She’s Got It

27 Aug

Back when I wrote this post I knew that I’d have changes made to my itinerary… I guess I just thought that something else would make them.  Like Mother Nature, Delta airlines or a winning lottery ticket.  No, I’m the one who finds reasons here and there to tinker with what looks like a well-laid plan from the outside.  And now, with only a bit of certainty, I can say that I think I’m done.  Or rather, I freaking hope that I’m bloody well done.

At this point everything fits in place like a jigsaw puzzle that someone had all too much time designing.  If everything goes as planned we’ll be able to take in a whole bunch of sights and still have a vacation.  Meaning both the Mister and I will enjoy the trip which is important because I kind of like him. 

Here are some of my lessons learned.

  • Don’t rely on your memory for train schedules. 
  • Avoid scheduling visits to places just because someone said you should or because it fits the route best. 
  • Choose your splurges wisely and where they will give you the most bang for your buck. 
  • Remember that planning is supposed to be somewhat enjoyable and stop wigging out already.
  • Ask your travel partner questions and don’t be surprised when they have opinions too.
  • Soap containers really aren’t all that different.  Stop buying them.
  • It might be good to practice leaving the house as preparation for leaving the country.
  • It’s only a trip.  🙂

 

I’m So Excited and I Couldn’t Possibly Hide It

22 Aug

Sometimes I just can’t help getting excited about little things.  It’s probably a good trait to have but it does warrant a lot of knowing smiles from my friends.  You know, the kind where you can hear them thinking “there she goes again!”  I’d hate to let them down so here’s a post about mailing envelopes.

DuPont makes a kind of quasi paper called Tyvek.  This stuff is awesome.  It weighs what paper does but it is water-resistant, tear-resistant and it’s recyclable.  I bought a pack at Office Max today.  They aren’t cheap at $12.99 for five but they are perfect for the job.  And what is the job?  I’m glad you asked.  Or I’m glad that I’m pretending you asked because that will help me transition into the next paragraph.

I think this pictures says "if you don't love Tyvek envelopes then you're a stinky dog hater", what do you think?

When I travel I like to keep ticket stubs and other paper bits with me.  The folders will come in handy since they are both tough and super light.  They can hold all the stuff we collect and even serve as a mailing pouch should I go nuts with my scrap-keeping.  I hope I won’t but there is something to be said in favor of free souvenirs that are flat that sometimes has me going a bit overboard. 

The only problem is that since we might be mailing these suckers home I don’t feel like I can color on them.  But they are big and white and begging for doodles.  Quick, someone get me a drink.  It’s going to be long night.

Everybody In the Whole Cell Block

20 Aug

We have plans to visit Lucerne to see the former Swiss fortress that was hidden inside a mountain.  I wrote about that here but I’m sure that you’ve already committed it to memory so forget I said anything.  When I was looking for a hotel I came across a pretty unique one.  It’s called Jailhotel Löwengraben and it was a former jail.

Built in 1862 the jail was still in use until 1998 when a new prison was built and the prisoners moved along.  As the building was considered somewhat historic the city didn’t want to tear it down.  They floated a bunch of different ideas of what could be housed in the building without changing much of the structure.  My favorite has to be the plan to have a school there.  As if school didn’t feel enough like incarceration, let’s make it more realistic, shall we?  In the end, the hotel idea won out.  And since, as I mentioned, not much of the structure has changed, if you stay there you are staying in a jail.

They have three types of rooms – former cells, former offices and four suites.  The suites were a former library, a former rec room for prisoners, the director’s office and what used to be the visitor’s room.  The suites look like nice big rooms, the former offices or “Most Wanted” rooms look like smallish hotel rooms.  And the former cells or “Unplugged” rooms?  They look like cells… because they freaking were.  It seems that some of the good people on Trip Advisor didn’t quite the whole theme of the place.

The experience was really really close to jail experience! Gives you a first hand experience of what it would be to spend time behind the bars. The room was the most narrow/small room I have ever slept in! Dark, narrow and with a stell rail bed! The door of the room is made of old style steel & wood. There was not even a single window in the room except for a peep hole all the way up near the roof! (italics are mine)  And inside all this, was a make shift bath+toilet!
The experience was so bad and depressing that we kept roaming around in the streets even though we were dead tired. The very thought of getting back to this room was so repulsive that we chose to spend out time out doors until it was late in the night.

And…

The Rooms in this Jail Hotel were very small with hardly any ventilation. We felt choked and claustrophobic. Families should avoid this Jail!  (italics are mine)

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Fan

18 Aug

Back when I was in sixth grade I got hit by a car.  It was totally my fault as I was jaywalking.  When the ambulance came to make sure I was okay (I was), there were only two things on my mind: my underwear and swimming.  My underwear was white with purple unicorns and the EMT was a cute guy.  When he examined my lower back I remembered the old addage about wearing clean underwear in case this kind of situation should occur, I mentally added the suggestion that the underwear should also be appropriate for cute EMT guys.  The swimming thoughts were there because we were staying at a hotel that night and I had finally been allowed to start shaving for the event.

This is not the Mister, FYI.

I say that I was allowed to start because Mom had pretty much forbid it until then.  She warned me that I’d have the whole rest of my life to shave and that once I started there would be no turning back.  Even at that young age, I knew that what she was saying was true but I couldn’t help wanting what I wanted.  It’s pretty sad how predictable that whole being a pre-teen is.  Your parents tell you what you should be doing, you listen and then go out and do the opposite only to learn that they were right.  Then, of course, wash, rinse and repeat.

Today, you’ll be happy to know, that I still shave.  I also still do things that my parents have advised me against with about the same results.  Shaving isn’t any fun.  If you’re a guy there’s all that razor burn.  If you’re a lady there is typically some masochistic form of yoga happening as the shower attempts to wash off the foam you needed a sun salutation to apply.  Blargh.

I thought of getting my legs waxed for our trip.  Wouldn’t it be great to forgo shaving for an entire month?  But then I thought about the perenial party pooper, my arm pits.  They weren’t going to take a vacation, so I couldn’t either.  I’d still need a travel shaving solution, preferably one that the Mister and I could both live with.  He’s pretty easy in this regard because he’s happy to shave with lotion or conditioner.  They have that stuff pretty much anywhere.  Due to the shower calisthenics, I typically need something a little more hardy.  Enter Kiss My Face Moisture Shave in Cool Mint.

This stuff is good.  It smells good, it feels good and it works better than shaving cream.  Never again will I have to buy one of the many tin cans of whatever.  I’m a convert to shaving lotion now.  The shave is so smooth that both times I’ve used it I’ve checked to see if the cover was still on because I couldn’t feel my razor.  When I hop out of the shower I can skip putting lotion on my legs.  And Henry can stop licking it off, thankfully.

Kiss My Face has added a blurb to the front of the package that tells me this size is perfect for travel.  Yes, we can take 3.4 oz on the plane.  I’d rather not because, as I mentioned before, the Mister is happy to use alternatives.  They’ll likely present themselves at hotels along the way.  I know that I’m going to suggest he use lotion or whatevs so we can save up the Moisture Shave and we’re going to return home with a nearly full container, aren’t we?  But kids, there are so many more thorny problems to have.  Like unicorn underwear, for example.

Me and Seat Guru, We Got a Thing Going On

15 Aug

Any good travel guide or website worth its salt will tell you to head on over to SeatGuru.com.  There you can look at seating plans for your particular flight and pick the one you want and birds will magically appear and start doing your laundry.  I never bothered with the site because when I travel for business we’re usually booking last minute and seat assignments aren’t available.  There’s no fun in logging in to see what you cannot have, right?

Wrong.  I finally rambled over to Seat Guru today because apparently I’ve reached the End of the Internet.  And guess what?  There’s a whole bunch of stuff on there that’s useful… besides seats!  Cue the singing birds, it’s time for fluff and fold!

Go buy this owl doing laundry ceramic tile on Etsy! Click the link to get it. Amazing.

Seatmap for Your Flight

Okay, so this is pretty self-explanatory.  This is what Seat Guru’s bread and butter.  Pick your airline, type in your flight number and get the insider info.  Good seat, poor seat, seat from hell; they are all artfully detailed for you.  Now when you play Choose Your Destiny, you aren’t just blindly guessing.  Maybe you’ll actually get to sit in the seat, too.  Gadzooks!

Airlines

On the left navigation bar you can pick out which airline is lucky enough to serve you in-flight peanuts.  After selecting the carrier, you’ll get loads of information.  On the left, below the airline, the different planes they fly will be displayed.  You can click on a specific plane to get a seatmap, see the amenities and learn how many first class flyers will be avoiding your eye contact as you board.

The General Information for the airline has lots of information, in general.  Check-In, Baggage, Infants, Minors and Pets are the main categories.  So you can figure out how much your carry on can way or how big it can be.  Because I know that’s as exciting for all y’all as it is for me.  Jumping up and down yet?

Comparison Charts

Towards the bottom of the left navigation bar you’ll see links to Comparison Charts.  These suckers will give you a quick glance at what the airlines are offering, in general.  You can click through to the carriers or the specific planes you’re interested in.  I mean, China Airlines gives you a personal TV, don’t you want to learn more?

Travel Tips

There is such a wealth of information under this heading that I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight, I’m that excited.  But in all seriousness, this is really good stuff.  Researched, practical and updated advice from people who honestly travel.  You could do a lot worse than to browse through here and see if anything grabs your interest.  Examples include reviews of iPhone travel apps and guides to airports.

Le One Drink Minimum

14 Aug

During our first date, I told the Mister with not a little bit of surprise “you’re actually funny”.  I realize now that this might have sounded less than complimentary but at the time I was just saying what I felt.  Many a guy had told me that he was funny or I’d been set up with guys who were supposed to be hilarious only to watch the clock through and entire date.  Here was someone who was actually funny, as in real life, on the spot, belly chuckle funny.  And, well… me being me, I thought he ought to know.

Over four and a half years later (OMG!), he’s still funny.  Actually.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m in love with the guy and get happy just seeing him, I suppose.  Still, he did stand up at one point and was approached about going pro.  He still likes to see comics, pro or otherwise, at work.  As a result I thought it would be fun to see some when we’re on our trip.

In Paris, every Friday at Le Pranzo you can attend NY Comedy Nights.  You must make a reservation for the chucklefest but it’s free if you buy one drink.  And it’s in English so I won’t be like a dog waiting for the words I know.  “Ah, he said ‘fromage’.  I know that one!”  Free stand up in the City of Lights.  C’est magnifique!

Who Are These People?

13 Aug

This is not a classy move, my friends.  I am not proud of what I’m about to tell you but I simply cannot keep quiet about this anymore.  Every time I’m reading travel boards, product reviews or comments in general, I read something that makes me go “Really?”.  Typically, I just keep this kind of thing to myself because who cares?  Everyone has their own opinion and they are definitely entitled to it.  Who is to say that you’re even going to agree with me, for starters.  I might think that these comments are out there but you might think that they make perfect sense.  And sometimes I honestly think that people are making things up just so their stuff gets read.

Somehow, despite all that, I’ve decided to add yet another Category to my list called “Who Are These People?”.  Now when I see these comments I can share them with you, dear reader.  And you can ignore them.

And since I’m not determined to start with a big bang, I’ll just toss out one that I saw today.  This was a product review for Rick Steves packing cubes (3 pack of large packing cubes, if you care.  I so totally do not care but apparently I like typing.)

“Great sense of organization and security when traveling. Watched security at the airport take a bag completely apart to check it………….now, I am relived to know my small, personal items are well contained if they take my bag apart. Also, makes a great way to ‘live’ out of them as they are contained when placed in hotel drawers (on top of a towel), just lift from suitcase to drawer……..very efficient.”

Her statement makes perfect sense.  I just found myself thrown by the whole towel scenario.  Is she reassuring us?  And if so, how?  Are we glad that she is saving the drawer from touching her stuff or vice versa?  Is the towel to cushion the packing cube?  Am I taking crazy pills here?

 

Carry On, My Wayward Whatever

12 Aug

Someone asked me a question about carry on bags the other day.  Strangely enough it was because they wanted to know and not because they like to hear me shoot random facts out my word hole.  So maybe you want to know or maybe you’re killing time waiting for Friday to finally be over so you can get your weekend on.  Either way, let’s boogie.

A carry on bag currently doesn’t have a standard.  And I don’t just mean domestic vs international either.  Carrier to carrier there isn’t a standard about what constitutes a carry on, how big it can be and how much it can weigh.  There are some common attributes so let’s start there before I go into the tailspin I like to call my disclaimer.

This slogan, splashed on posters by the Brits in 1939, makes just as much sense now as it did in 1939. Especially for your luggage.

Most domestic airlines have a requirement of 45 linear inches or less.  To figure out your bag’s linear inches, add the length, height and width.  A really standard way of getting to 45″ is 22″ x 14″ x 9″.  If you’re bag shopping, most manufacturers refer to these standard bags as a 22″ bag.  There are two big caveats with this whole 45″ business.  First off, the manufacturers measuring your bag might not be so good at math.  Most of them measure the inside of your bag.  So they are assuming that the pockets on the outside, the wheels and the frame aren’t included.  That’s just poppycock, people.  It’s not like you bought a bag with those things not to use them but they typically aren’t included when measured by the people selling them.

Another thing to know about the old 45″ rule is that not everyone follows it.  Some go a bit bigger, true.  But most go smaller, especially international carriers.  And if you’re hopping on one of those budget European airlines, sister, you better not have anything approaching 45″ unless you like checking your stuff… and paying more for checking your bag than your ticket cost in the first place.  And for once, I’m not exaggerating.

Always, always, always check with your carrier on the allowable size of carry on.  It is on their website and I remember it use to be on the paper ticket but I haven’t seen one of those in donkey’s years.  Also check with your carrier about allowable weight.  Most airlines aren’t checking this but don’t think for a moment that they aren’t thinking about it.  A serious conversation is being had about weighing passengers with their carry ons to see if any additional charges should be levied.  Fun.  And again, international carriers are much more strict about weight limitations and they will make you check. 

If you have a soft sided piece of luggage then you have a little wiggle room (pun intended, I guess) as far as getting it in the overhead bin.  That only goes so far because if you’ve overpacked the sucker the advantage is gone.  If you’re concerned about a carry on’s weight you can wear some of the extra on board.  Throw your digital camera in your pocket, wear your heaviest clothes and shoes, put your toiletries in your underwear.  As Tim Gunn is known to say, “make it work”. 

I’ll leave you here with two wise sayings from my Momo (mother’s mother in Swedish).  She said when you are traveling not to worry about your hair too much because you’ll never see these people again.  I have, unfortunately, applied this theory to my hair, traveling or not, but it’s still good advice.  The second bit of wisdom is that you should always take what you want but want what you take.  Meaning, if you really need to have a hair dryer the size of your last car then remember that there are drawbacks along with the warm fuzzy feeling of having your own stuff with you.  Just make your decision and be happy with it, basically.  And then come into the kitchen, I’ll make you some leftovers.